Strong Test-Optional Growth Continues

University Testing

FairTest Examiner, May 2011

Over the past several months, FairTest has published new reports, articles and fact sheets covering a range of testing issues, including the “school to prison pipeline,” racial justice issues, the 2010 SAT and ACT score releases, implications for NCLB of slowing gains and widening gaps on NAEP and SAT tests, better ways to evaluate schools, and multiple measures. Summaries and links follow. To stay up-to-date on new FairTest materials, check “

Another dozen colleges and universities have adopted test-optional policies in recent months. The additions push the list of accredited, bachelor-degree granting institutions which do not require ACT/SAT scores from all or many applicants to nearly 850. A new book, The SAT Wars, to be published this fall, will further accelerate the movement.

DePaul University in Chicago became the nation’s largest private, non-profit school to drop ACT/SAT admissions exams when its Faculty Council unanimously approved a four-year, test-optional pilot program. After analyzing years of data, “We learned that the combination of their high school GPA and their extracurricular accomplishments are better predictors of college success than SAT or ACT scores,” said DePaul President Dennis Holtschneider. “We also learned that this approach better helped us identify non-traditional students who would do very well here.” Applicants will have the option of responding to several short essay questions instead of submitting test results.

At Virginia Wesleyan College in Hampton Beach, Virginia, applications nearly quadrupled after the announcement that applicants with high school GPAs of 3.5 or better would not have to submit ACT or SAT scores. Dean of Admissions Patty Patten noted that the school’s internal research coincided with national studies concluding that high school GPA is by far the best predictor of college success. Patten said, “Students with a strong track record in high school know how to study, and that allows them to be successful in the college arena as well.”

By a wide margin, the faculty of The Sage Colleges voted to stop requiring standardized tests. The policy applies to both Russell Sage College and the Sage College of Albany. “The SAT continues to be a less reliable predictor of first year performance or success in college compared to high school GPA and class rank,” explained Sage’s provost Dr. Terry Weiner. “Our own studies at Sage have confirmed this. In this time of economic distress students should not have to choose between expensive cram courses or tutoring for these tests, or worry about losing ground in the competition for college admission.”

Other colleges dropping ACT/SAT admissions testing requirements in recent months include Eugene Lang, Manhattanville, Marist, Moravian, MacMurray, Salve Regina, and Wagner. In addition, American University extended its test-optional policy, previously available only for its Early Action program, to anyone who applies before November 1. Colorado College adopted a test-flexible process, which allows applicants to substitute a mix of scores from other tests, including Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams, for the ACT/SAT.

The movement to eliminate admissions exam requirements will get another boost this fall with the publication of SAT Wars: The Case for Test-Optional Admissions, from Teachers College Press. FairTest contributed a step-by-step guide for admissions offices to use in reevaluating their testing policies. The editor is Wake Forest University Professor Joseph Soares, who helped lead his own school to adopt an ACT/SAT optional policy.